Pamela Adlon in ‘Better Things’ Is a Love Letter to the Sandwich Generation

Pamela Adlon from Better Things artfully paints a picture of what it really means to wedged in between young adult children, aging parents, and a demanding career. Even though the writing is on the wall, nobody really explains how your fifth decade is the most exhausting and possibly most thankless time in your life.

In the season opener, Adlon artfully (and hilariously) represents what many sandwich generation adults are fielding. Young adult children are in college, parents are declining and who knows what in the world is going on with your body?

Pamela Adlon, Olivia Edward, Hannah Alligood and Mikey Madison /Getty Images

Thank God for humor because without it this decade would, well…suck. Adlon delivers and so much more.

Cha-cha-cha changes

Although the effects of puberty are well known to all, a widespread hush descends upon the masses when it comes to the big “m” word. That’s right menopause and a woman’s changing body is not celebrated or even talked about. Thankfully, Adlon tackles the topic head on with impeccable comedic timing.

The show opens with what most 50-something women face every day. The jeans that fit yesterday are too tight today? “Really, how did this happen?” she questions grabbing some of her skin. “I’m bigger. I’m a big lady man.”

She fabulously jokes the entire time, doing a before and after with her stomach. Then cradles her belly asking, “Whose the lucky guy?” You can’t help but fall in love with her and laugh along.

Adlon told NPR how mid-life changes can be, well shocking. “My body changed. I got thicker. And I don’t feel bad about my body, or anything, but it was shocking. And I remember being in my closet and trying on pants. I’m like, “I just wore these three months ago.” Things were just tighter.”

Your children are adults (kinda)

Adlon is also dropping her oldest child off at college. In Chicago. The two explore the city together, mother and daughter, curious and finding humor wherever they can. She’s also buying her daughter baby shampoo, but also condoms and pregnancy tests.

Every parent who drops off their firstborn at college goes through this. Stocking up on endless boxes of Advil, ramen, a neti-pot. You just never know what your child will need when you aren’t there to take care of them.

Then there’s that pit in your stomach knowing your child has anxiety about moving away. You have the same stress but are trying to hold it together. Not to mention the pile of stuff that needs to be transported by you into their room. Meanwhile, Adlon still has a teen daughter navigating puberty and her youngest who is in elementary school. All over the board.

And the parents aren’t alright

Since last season Adlon’s character has had to come to terms with her mother’s mental decline. Many adults in their 50s are sandwiched between still caring for children, but also caring for parents. Phil, played by Celia Imrie is realistic in her portrayal as an aging woman in decline. The show also finds ways to inject humor into a dark and upsetting time for many adults.

As invested as Adlon’s character is in her children, she is in her mother too. And she’s being tugged from side to side, but using realism and humor every step of the way. So for anyone who wakes up at dawn to take care of children, then care for parents and then go to work…this show tells you things may not always be alright. But they certainly can be a little funny.

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